Cassoulet, the hearty traditional beans-with-meat dish of provincial France, is subject to much variation and endless Gallic dispute like the recipes for Boston baked beans, a "true" clam chowder, or the pemmican of the American Indians. Some, for example, insist that goose is essential. Feel free to experiment, but the important thing is not to hurry the dish, a meal-in-itself aromatic delight that often takes three days of leisurely country cooking in France. Our adaptation for the clay pot is somewhat condensed, but no less succulent.
Place the ham hocks, pea beans, consomme, tomato juice, whole onions, garlic, bay leaves, and thyme in a large saucepan. Add enough water to cover by
When the 5 hours are about up, presoak a large clay pot, top and bottom, in water for 15 minutes. In a frying pan, brown the lamb, sausage, and pork in the bacon fat. Add salt and pepper to taste, then place in the presoaked pot. In the same frying pan, brown the chopped onions in the meat drippings, then add to the meat in the pot, along with the ham hock-bean mixture. (The combination should be soupy; you may have to add a small amount of consomme.)
Cover the pot and place in a cold oven.
Set the oven temperature at 450 degrees.
Cook for 1 hour.
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